Someone new to backcountry bowhunting  emailed me with two interesting questions:

  1. How many miles should I be running per week?
  2. And how many miles should add to my running routine each week?

Here’s a shocker: there’s no perfect answer. Weird, right? Every training plan is different, and per-week-mileage fluctuates based on your training goals and level of fitness.

Let’s dive in.

The Newbie

My beautiful bride just started running. She’s a CrossFit goer, so pounding the pavement is very new to her. Currently, she has no race goals and is simply looking to get in better running shape. This past week was here second week running three times a week — a great per-week-run suggestion for beginners — and she put in 10 road miles.

Her average pace was 10:00 minutes per mile. She felt good after her last run and was eager to boost up the mileage for week three. However, this is a mistake for two reasons:

  1. Her body isn’t used to the pounding.
  2. Boosting mileage too fast will lead to injury and runner burnout. Remember, we’re doing this to get healthy.

Instead, this week, she will run three miles on Monday, four miles on Wednesday and four miles on Friday. Her total weekly miles will total 11, and her average pace should remain around 10:00 minutes per mile. At the end of this week — even if she is feeling amazing — she’ll only increase her total mileage by one mile for the following week. As for her pace, she will start to go faster simply because her body is ready to go faster.

Photo: iStock

Photo: iStock

The 5-10K Crowd

One of my good buddies is currently training for a 10K run. He hopes to compete in the 40-to-44 age bracket but, to do so, he needs to hold a 7:20 minute-per-mile pace throughout the run.

This past week, his per-mile-week average was 37 miles. He hit one long run of 10 miles to help build endurance and one lactic burn 6-mile interval run that consisted of running a 7:25 minute mile before stopping to take a one-minute rest. He repeated this exact process six times, a form of interval training. The rest of his runs were between five and seven miles and were run at an average pace of 8:40 seconds per mile.

Currently, the race is two months out. His plan is to work on his speed while adding between one and two miles to his total mileage plan, per week. Two weeks before the run he will taper things back considerably.

Thirty-seven miles is a lot, and to simply finish a 5K or a 10K doesn’t require so much pounding. I know many runners who run piles of 5K and 10K races and never put in between 12 and 20 miles per week. The key, if this is your goal, is to allow yourself at least eight weeks of training for a 5K and 10 weeks of training for a 10K. This allow a runner to build mileage slowly and prevent injury.

The Half-Marathoner

The biggest mistake I see when it comes to running a half is the “I’m just going to do a half” mindset. I hear runners who’ve never completed anything longer than a 10-miler say this often. It’s not “just a half.” It’s a grueling 13.1 miles.

Your weekly mileage training program will differ greatly based on your overall goal. If you just want to finish, get in the miles during the week and don’t focus on speed. Allow yourself at least 12 weeks of training. The key to finishing a half is your weekly long run and, no, it doesn’t have to be 13.1 miles. In fact, getting up to 10 or 11 miles for your weekly long run should be the goal.

A good per-week-mile goal for those just looking to finish a half should bounce around that 20- to 25-mile mark. That’s running three times a week. Of course, those looking to, not only finish, but complete the half marathon within a set time, should include interval training and boost the per-week-mileage considerably.13681026_1347046521989574_2616676352919315022_n

The Ultra Runner

At age 36, I’m in the best physical shape of my life. I’m currently training to complete and win a backcountry 100-mile ultra-marathon. At the moment, I don’t give a crap about how fast I can run a 5k or 10K. It doesn’t matter because I’m not training for speed. To be competitive in this race and to meet the goal I’ve set for myself, it’s all about putting in the miles and doing a lot of vertical training.

The race is set for July 29-30. My last-week total mileage count was 55. Yes, that’s a lot, but this week I plan to step that number up to 60 total miles. Then, for at least three weeks, I will stay in that 60 to 63 miles-per-week zone. I don’t want to step it up too fast.

This type of training is hard on the body, and trying to overdo and leapfrog mileage too quickly will result in injury. After three or four weeks of hitting my 60 to 63 average, I will jump up to 70 miles per week. This is the zone I will live in leading up to the race. Typically, I will hit my 70-mile average for two weeks in a row (roughly 10 miles per day), and then drop down to 50 miles for a week to let my body recover. When training for extreme distance, the key is to not step up in mileage too quickly. Build your base, listen to your body and gradually add miles as you go.